John Loftus’ latest anthology, The End of Christianity has been printed by Prometheus and is now being distributed. I have an essay in the book titled “Hell: Christianity’s Most Damnable Doctrine.” (BTW, John and Victor Reppert are having a knock-down-drag-out squabble on their respective blogs–Debunking Christianity and Dangerous Idea–about what John calls ‘the outsider test of faith.’ The imbroglio now seems to be generating rather more heat than light.)
I really enjoyed doing the piece on hell. For one thing, it let me indulge my mean streak guilt-free since it is impossible to be too harsh on such an odious doctrine. Some of hell’s defenders now mitigate the severity of the dogma to some extent. Jerry Walls, for instance, considers that many people are at an epistemological disadvantage, as he sees it, with respect to “the truth about Christ.” That is, many people, through no fault of their own, are in circumstances that make them unreceptive to the Christian message. For instance, someone may have been born into a culture of dogmatic, reactionary Islam and will therefore naturally give Christian claims short shrift. Walls understandably thinks that a just and loving God will not condemn to hell one whose unchosen circumstances preclude a fair hearing of Christian claims. His solution is “eschatological evangelism,” i.e., that after death those who have lived in invincible ignorance of Christian “truth” will be given a full and fair hearing and allowed to make an unbiased and free choice of whether to accept that “truth” or not.
Of course, Walls is pretty sketchy about how all of this is supposed to take place. After death will you find yourself in the presence of angelic beings who assure you of the truth of Christianity and the falsehood of Islam, Hinduism, paganism, or whatever? Whatever the scenario, Walls thinks that you will still have the choice to freely reject the Christian message. Further, since, in his view, free and conscious rejection of the “truth about Christ” can only be due to “concupiscence and hardness of heart” those who reject the eschatological evangelism will then deserve hell.
Let me generate a little heat of my own: Shouldn’t it be obvious when we get to topics like “eschatological evangelism” that the discussion has left the realm of good sense and flown off into Cloud-Cuckoo-Land??? Gee. How many angels CAN dance on the head of a pin? Grrrrr.